Earlier this week, as my toddler and I were peering in the fridge, trying to decide what to have for breakfast, he spied a pomegranate, which he identified as an apple. I explained that it wasn’t an apple, but that he’d probably like it just as well, if not better, than an apple.
We ate the whole thing. Actually, he ate 7/8 of it, and I managed to snag a few juicy gemstones that escaped from his grasp. As I peeled the pomegranate for him, and as he grabbed at it, trying to get it away from me, I realized that the task of peeling it could be lots of fun for him. And, indeed, it is. Though a lot of people complain about peeling pomegranates – the consensus is that they’re more fuss than they’re worth – I’d respectfully disagree. They may, in fact, constitute a net calorie loss, given the effort involved in getting them apart, but there’s nothing wrong with that unless you’re actually starving. (And I’m betting that no one reading this post is actually starving.)
So if you’ve been averse to the pomegranate in the past, I urge you: give it another try. Here’s some tips to help you along:
I find that the best way to get into the fruit without making a gigantic juicy mess is to just barely cut into it. To do this, position the fruit with it’s crown on the top, and imagine it’s a small red brain. Then, using a knife, cut to dissect the brain into its two hemispheres – but only cut down about an inch. Remove the knife and insert the tips of your thumbs into the cut, and gently pull the pomegranate into two pieces – which will look eerily like a brain, with all its little bumpy compartments. (See the photo above.) From here, just gently use your hands to spread the compartments open. This keeps the cells intact, and you won’t have a big mess. You can also put half of the pomegranate in the fridge and safe for later, if you don’t want to eat all of it at once.
You might be asking: why bother?
A few reasons. First, pomegranate is so delicious. I asked my son what he was eating, trying to get him to say “pomegranate,” and he bypassed that by announcing, “treats!” It really does feel like treats – a sort of holistic version of nerds or gushers candy. (Yes, I ate those growing up! And loved them! People can change…)
Secondly, because pomegranate is amazing for you. Per Rebecca Katz’s The Longevity Kitchen, pomegranates are anti-inflammatory and promote heart health. She writes,
Nitric oxide helps blood vessels relax, making it vital for cardiovascular health, and pomegranates have been shown to pump up levels of nitric oxide in heart cells and also lower systolic blood pressure. In animal studies, pomegranate extract also helped slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, which could be beneficial for those at risk of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Pomegranate antioxidant levels are so high that Russian physicians used it to reduce the effects of radiation exposure following the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.
While that latter bit will hopefully not become relevant to us, it’s safe to say that pomegranates are nothing short of phenomenally good for you. Dr. Josh Axe goes so far as to claim that pomegranate seeds are a natural aphrodisiac, that they can reduce arthritis and joint pain, fight cancer, lower blood pressure, fight bacterial infections, and improve heart health and memory.
If pomegranate were patent-able, phizer would be All. Over. It.
In sooth, I’ve never been one to choose foods based solely on claims that they are “Healthy.” I choose foods more like a cat does – Does it smell nice? Is it delicious? Can I play with it for a while before I eat it?
Back in the 90’s, when low-fat foods were all the rage, I dismissed them and opted for the “unhealthy” full-fat versions of foods – based on the fact that the low-fat foods were uniformly gross tasting and that had terrible texture. Now we know that the low-fat fad was terrible for us: our bodies need healthy fats to function, and most of the processed low-fat foods were simply re-engineered to cut the fat and replace it with sugar and salt and weird ingredients to try to mimic the texture of actual foodstuffs.
In my coaching practice, I counsel clients to opt for foods that are not just “healthy” or part of any current health fad – but to choose whole, real foods that are delicious and just happen to be amazing for our health. This is a foreign concept to many people, but I assure you, the crossover between these two categories is immense.
So, as the holidays approach, I want to raise a toast to the delightful pomegranate. Not just the juice, but the actual fruit, in all its cellular splendor. May all your senses be delighted.